Tag - mental health

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Movement for Mental Health
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Food as Medicine for Mental Health
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Pillars for Mental Health
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A Little Touch of Spring
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The Winter Blues
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What Is Your New Years Resolution?
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Support for Survivors of Suicide Loss
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Tips for a Less Stressful Holiday
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Helping People Navigate the Health Care System
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2018 Community Health Needs Assessment Posted

Movement for Mental Health

By: Julie Bomengen

“Get some exercise!” — I know you hear it all the time, but bear with me because while most people understand that exercise is good for the body, fewer of us think about the connections between movement and mental health. We are going to dive into why movement is a pillar for mental health and how being active on a daily basis supports optimal brain health, as well as emotional and mental well-being.

As hunters and gatherers, our ancestors moved to survive. Every day for the majority of each day, they sprinted, jogged, climbed, carried, and jumped intermittently, walking an average of 6 miles and running ½ to 1 mile each day. Needless to say, our human bodies were designed to move! Fast forward to today and research reveals that the typical U.S. adult is sedentary for 60% of their life and sits for six to seven hours per day.  Clearly, there is a mismatch between what we are designed to do and what we are doing, and this disconnect is having major implications for our physical health as well as our emotional and mental wellbeing.

So why does movement help mental health?

  • Moving our bodies is the simplest way to improve mood due to the endorphins and mood-boosting chemicals, serotonin and dopamine, that are released when we are active and engaged in something that is pleasurable. When we engage in regular, consistent activity, our brain’s dopamine receptors are sensitized which enhances the reward and pleasure experience. Movement becomes more and more rewarding and beneficial over time. Keep at it!
  • Symptoms of anxiety and depression have been found to decline when these same mood-boosting chemicals are released.
  • Stress can be reduced when we are active due to the increase in concentration of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that can modulate the brain’s response to stress.
  • Improved brainpower and memory enhancement results when we move our bodies because new brain cells are created through a process called neurogenesis. Workouts increase a brain protein called Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) which promotes the survival of neurons, thereby facilitating such things as decision-making, higher levels of thinking. and learning processes.
  • There’s something to be said for the feeling of confidence that comes with and after participating in something physical that challenges us.  Even when it’s hard or doesn’t yield the desired effect right off, there is the opportunity to feel strong, capable, motivated, and proud of what you did or what you are in the process of doing. By moving your body in any way, you are saying that you matter and have value — that is something that translates into self-love and confidence. Keep at it!! Today, tomorrow, and the day after that — just keep moving.
  • While you’re moving, move on out to the great outdoors! Research tells us that the extra Vitamin D that comes from the sunshine (even when it’s cloudy, we are getting some degree of Vitamin D), fresh air, and being among the healing elements of nature add to the overall mental health benefits of moving our bodies outside. Pick one outside activity to try out this week. How about a walk on the Rail-Trail?  Also, much has been written about the idea of “nature deficit disorder” in our population, particularly among children. Get your kids outside moving with you – you’ll be shaping lifelong behaviors that will serve you in profound and deeply meaningful ways.
  • Moving our bodies helps us relax more which, in turn, can support a healthy circadian rhythm which improves sleep, which in turn, makes us feel better, mentally and emotionally. See how all of this is inter-connected?! Check out my earlier post if you need a reminder of why sleep is also a pillar of mental health.
  • Engaging in some form of physical movement on a regular basis helps improve productivity and creativity.  Research is revealing that working for 45 minutes and then taking a 15 minute break and getting up and moving our bodies provides us with a burst of energy that improves productivity and brain functioning while also improving mood.
  • Moving our bodies can be even more beneficial when we move with others as we often feel more inspired and supported, and less alone when we are engaging in an activity with a friend or joining a group of people who are working towards a common goal. As one idea, how about contacting the Green Mountain Club and joining in one of their scheduled walks/hikes? Bring a friend along or make a new friend in the process.
  • People who are struggling with addictions of any kind benefit from having positive, healthy substitute behaviors to engage in. Our brains release dopamine – the reward chemical – when we are engaging in things that are pleasurable. Exercise can produce this pleasurable state, thereby offering the potential of being that substitute behavior for people who struggle with addiction. Also, movement reduces depressive symptoms and stress, which improves mood and has been shown to help diminish cravings for drugs and alcohol.

As you can see, physical movement is essential for positive mental health outcomes. Think about the activities you enjoyed as a kid – roller skating, swimming, dancing, hula hooping, playing basketball, rowing a boat, jumping rope, hiking through the woods, or walking along a stream. Find something you love and do it. Do it slowly at first, with a friend at times, alone with your thoughts at other times. Pick up the pace next time and feel your breath move through your body. Look around while you’re moving outside and find gratitude for the beauty of this community we live in. Breathe fully and deeply and find love and compassion for yourself, knowing that any movement or activity you engage in supports your body, your mind, and your emotional well-being. 

Resources to Further your Education and Information:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-simply-moving-benefits-your-mental-health-201603289350

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm

https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-works-and-why/201803/how-your-mental-health-reaps-the-benefits-exercise

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/people-in-nature/200901/no-more-nature-deficit-disorder


Julie Bomengen is a Vermont Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC) with 22 years of experience in the field of mental health. Julie is also a Nutritional Therapy Consultant (NTC), a certification of the Nutritional Therapy Association. She lives, works and plays in Lamoille County.

Food as Medicine for Mental Health

By: Julie Bomengen

Around 400 BC, the Greek physician Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” While this quote is commonly used in reference to physical health (think about doctors prescribing heart-healthy diets to reduce rates of heart disease), in today’s blog post we will be extending the tenet of “Food As Medicine” to mental health as well. Indeed, recent research confirms what Hippocrates said so long ago: nutrition is a key pillar for supporting positive mental health outcomes. 

Simply put, our mood and food are intimately connected and bi-directional, each impacting the other. When we pay attention to the cues our bodies give us, we can often mitigate unwanted and unpleasant physical and emotional symptoms. For example, when I have clients tell me they are anxious, one of the first things I ask them about is their caffeine and sugar consumption. If you are experiencing a racing heart, pressured speech, or a cranked/on-edge nervous feeling, it may likely be that you have thrown your body chemistry out of balance by either over-consuming caffeine and/or eating too many-fast burning carbs which can lead to blood-sugar dysregulation or hypoglycemia, resulting in a yo-yo effect on your mood and energy levels. Perhaps an easy first step is to be curious about how you might feel differently if you were to reduce your caffeine use or eat a more nutrient-dense breakfast that stabilizes blood sugar levels and evens out your mood.

Did you know that our mental health is dependent on our body’s ability to make neurotransmitters, such as our “feel-good” chemicals, serotonin, dopamine, GABA, glutamate, and norepinephrine?  Did you know that we need amino acids to make the neurotransmitters and that amino acids come from the proteins we consume?  While the importance of eating good quality proteins cannot be overemphasized, it is equally as important that our bodies are digesting and breaking down these proteins into the amino acids that are the building blocks in the production of neurotransmitters. Approaching our consumption of food in a more intentional and slower manner and taking the time to awaken our senses as we eat is an important step in ensuring optimal digestion. With peak digestion comes prime production of the neurotransmitters that support positive mental health. 

Lastly, there is growing research on the link between gut permeability (a.k.a. leaky gut), inflammation in the body and depression. Doing whatever you can to reduce inflammation by watching your stress levels and eating the types of foods that soothe and heal your intestinal lining helps support positive mental health outcomes (more on this in a later blog post).

Specific steps that can support positive mental health:

  • Hydrate with water immediately upon waking. Drinking water supports cellular health and helps with mood, energy, mobility, and pain. Aim to consume 50% of your body weight in ounces of water every day. For example: If you weigh 150 pounds, shoot for 75 ounces of water per day. For every cup of caffeinated beverage you consume (these have a dehydrating effect on the body), compensate with an additional 2 cups of water.
  • Eat food before consuming your coffee in order to mitigate the impact of the caffeine on your body’s nervous system. 
  • Choose longer-lasting sources of foods in the morning to prevent the mood swings and irritability often associated with eating sugary, processed foods. For example, make a simple breakfast sandwich with bacon (cook a few pounds of bacon over the weekend and store it in your freezer for easy use throughout the week) or sausage, eggs and greens, or make a breakfast bowl with rice, quinoa, scrambled eggs, greens, and cheese. This website offers multiple ideas on how to start your day with superfoods that support your physical and mental health.
  • Eat your meals slowly, chewing each bite longer than you think you need to (or want to) to ensure the proper breakdown of nutrients in the body.
  • Consider consulting with some of our local nutritionists or working with a health coach who can help you follow-through on meal planning and support the changes that can sometimes be difficult to make initially.
  • Remember that even small changes will impact your mental health. Start to identify what foods make you feel poorly and what makes you feel best. Paying attention to how you feel helps. Keep a food/mood journal for 3-4 days, writing down everything you put into your mouth – solids and liquids. Notice your moods and digestive issues. Are you bloated and uncomfortable, is your heart racing, do you have energy, are you experiencing foggy brain, are you angry or irritable? Charting this information will help you remain objective and clear about what is and what is not supporting your mental and emotional health. Food is information, thereby, putting healthy ingredients into our bodies helps optimize both our physical and mental health and functioning.
  • Understand that Excitotoxins – aspartame, sugars, artificial sweeteners – all have an impact on our focus, energy, and mood. Consider exchanging them for stevia, raw honey, or maple syrup. Similarly, eliminating additives and preservatives from foods will reduce their damaging impact on your mood.
  • Eliminate harmful trans fats and oils, which lead to inflammation and oxidative stress in the body. As you work to decrease inflammatory processes by using healthy fats and oils like extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, grass-fed butter, you will be supporting optimal mental health functioning and reducing the risk of depressive symptoms.

Additional Resources to Further your Education and Information:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201509/when-food-is-medicine

https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/09/food-mental-health

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/rhythms-recovery/201703/eat-right-feel-right-mental-health-nutrition

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/28/well/eat/food-mood-depression-anxiety-nutrition-psychiatry.html?utm_campaign=Chris%20Kresser&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=71957723&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-_XeO7wHLYkxiu89irzH7xIryxnphpBSEiG-mBm2s66VwSbfQV4jPINyWWiq582Wj6EaACKW-vtinV-rd5ifqtjbpE2WQ&_hsmi=71957723


Julie Bomengen is a Vermont Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC) with 22 years of experience in the field of mental health. Julie is also a Nutritional Therapy Consultant (NTC), a certification of the Nutritional Therapy Association. She lives, works and plays in Lamoille County.

Pillars for Mental Health

By: Julie Bomengen

Hello! I’m excited to offer you my first Live Well Lamoille blog post.  I will be covering topics related to Mental Health and hope that what I share will be interesting, educational, and applicable to you in your lives. I will be speaking about mental health from a Mind-Body approach which will include biological, psychological, and social perspectives. This style is inclusive, holistic, and integrated, and will allow for an exploration of mental health that is educational and functional.

The work I do as an outpatient mental health therapist includes discussion of “Pillars of Health.” These Pillars serve as the foundation for health and wellness and are paramount to any discussion about mental and emotional well-being. Pillars include:

  • Attention to Quality of Sleep and understanding the influence of our body’s Circadian Rhythms
  • Regular Physical Movement and Activities that are engaging and fun
  • Nutrient-Dense Foods that support optimal health for the individual
  • Involvement in a Supportive and Caring Community
  • Positive Personal and Intimate Relationships that are enduring, loving, and reliable
  • Meaningful Engagement in Work (paid or voluntary)
  • and lastly, a Robust Toolbox of Skills and Resources to Manage Current Stressors and/or Past Traumas.

I would argue that when we pay attention and subscribe to these Pillars of Health, the majority of disturbances in our health and wellbeing can and will be mitigated, if not eliminated. While it will always remain true that we cannot control for every variable that impacts our health and wellbeing, there is a hopefulness that comes with knowing that we have more agency and ability to manage and shape our health than we might have believed. Of course, if optimal health was achieved simply by knowing about these “Pillars,” we’d all be in good shape.

The truth is we benefit from a supportive environment in which to address our health goals. It can be hard to make and sustain changes, and due to bioindividuality (the fact that each of us has very specific needs for his or her own health according to age, constitution, gender, size, lifestyle, and ancestry), there is no “one size fits all” formula. Still, there are common themes and clear ways to feel better from the inside out. 

My goal is to help you understand and feel confident about how to take charge of your Mental Health. I look forward to teasing apart the “Pillars” and discussing other important and pressing themes such as addiction, depression, anxiety, and suicide, as well as the impact of a sedentary lifestyle and excessive screen time, and how a deficiency of time spent in nature all contribute to poor behavioral health outcomes.

For now, start paying attention to each of your own Pillars of Health and complete a self-inventory to determine which ones might need support and reinforcing. For example, ask yourself:

  • How is the quality of my sleep? Do I feel rested in the morning?
  • Am I moving my body in some way every day?  What impact does movement have on my mood?
  • Am I feeding my body and brain the nutrients it needs to function well? How are my moods impacted by what I eat or when I eat? 
  • Am I involved in some type of supportive community? If not, why? 
  • Are my relationships strong and reliable? How do these relationships impact my attitude or mood?
  • Am I doing work that I enjoy and find meaningful? Do I have effective outlets for managing stress?

Take some notes and stay tuned for how to optimize your mental and emotional health!

Best,  Julie


Julie Bomengen is a Vermont Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC) with 22 years of experience in the field of mental health. Julie is also a Nutritional Therapy Consultant (NTC), a certification of the Nutritional Therapy Association. She lives, works and plays in Lamoille County.

A Little Touch of Spring

By: Valerie Valcour

The Vernal Equinox is March 20, 2019. Looking outside my window, I dare say there is more snow melting that needs to happen before it feels like spring. Every year I look forward to spring and getting my hands in the garden to tend my flowers. For me, caring for my flowers provides me solace and relaxation.

You can find several references regarding gardening as a source of mental health. Here is one such reference from Psychology Today. In this article, the author identifies gardening as a source of nurturing and being in the present moment.

The first flower that greets us in the spring is the Crocus. The Crocus is a brave yet delicate flower. It reminds me that having a little courage can help me push through the cold dormant ground of winter’s past. I hope you enjoy this poem by Frances Ellen Walkins Harper and think Spring!

The Crocuses

They heard the South wind sighing
    A murmur of the rain;
And they knew that Earth was longing
    To see them all again.
 
While the snow-drops still were sleeping
    Beneath the silent sod;
They felt their new life pulsing
    Within the dark, cold clod.
 
Not a daffodil nor daisy
    Had dared to raise its head;
Not a fairhaired dandelion
    Peeped timid from its bed;
 
Though a tremor of the winter
    Did shivering through them run;
Yet they lifted up their foreheads
    To greet the vernal sun.
 
And the sunbeams gave them welcome,
    As did the morning air—
And scattered o’er their simple robes
    Rich tints of beauty rare.
 
Soon a host of lovely flowers
    From vales and woodland burst;
But in all that fair procession
    The crocuses were first.
 
First to weave for Earth a chaplet
    To crown her dear old head;
And to beauty the pathway
    Where winter still did tread.
 
And their loved and white-haired mother
    Smiled sweetly ’neath the touch,
When she knew her faithful children
    Were loving her so much

-Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, 1825 – 1911


Valerie Valcour is a Public Health Nurse and specializes in chronic disease prevention and emergency preparedness at the community level for the Department of Health in Morrisville. Valerie has lived in Lamoille County for most of her life. She graduated from People’s Academy in 1983 and worked as a nurse at Copley Hospital for several years. In addition to her work, she volunteers as a board member of both Community Health Services of Lamoille Valley and the Lamoille County Planning Commission.

The Winter Blues

By: Caleb Magoon

Seasonal Affective Disorder

In my blog posts, I normally talk about staying active, fit and healthy. Of course, this is my wheelhouse. But this month I’m tackling a different subject: the all-too-familiar winter blues.

I’m generally a positive and upbeat person. I also love winter. I like to play in the snow and make the most of it, no matter the condition. But just a couple weeks ago something happened- I was in a bad car accident that has left me injured. Though my injury isn’t severe, it has left me unable to participate in many of the winter activities that bring me joy during these challenging months.

This has been a profound awakening for me. While I undergo rehab to get back to form, I now have a much greater understanding of and respect for those who are not able-bodied. The challenges of staying upbeat in our long winter become even harder with even modest limitations. So do mundane tasks like shoveling snow and walking down the road when your body can’t keep up.

What can we do but adapt? This can be very hard for someone like myself with set ways and ideas of how my winter should be. But adapting and making adjustments is the only way to stay positive. Here are some thoughts I have about the process:

  • Do what you can! Walking is widely recognized as an excellent exercise. It’s considerably lower speed than I am used to but necessary. It’s forced me to slow things down and take stock. This is good for both physical and mental recovery. Don’t discount the importance of some quiet time to think.
  • Stretch – Anyone can do it. A little physical therapy and stretching can do everyone good. It’s also the gateway to more robust activity. There are so many resources online that it’s easy to get started.
  • Exercise is mental – Every time I ski or bike I am helping my body and my mind. While my body must take it easy for the immediate future, I need to focus on sharpening my mind. I am reading the paper a bit more, writing in a journal about things going on in my life and working to reflect on the good things in life. Stay positive.
  • Set some goals – We all want to get back out. Setting modest goals will help the downtime fly by and keep you focused on recovery. We all want to be ready to enjoy that first sunny, 50-degree day in March. Be ready for it!
  • Don’t forget to socialize – Mental health is greatly improved when we engage with other people. Taking myself out of my routine pulls me away from the people I normally interact with. I tend to pull back from people and isolate a bit. This isn’t healthy. In situations like this, we all need to go out of our way to stay engaged with others.

I now recognize the challenges of those who are less able-bodied to get through our long winters. You can make it through by staying positive and focusing on doing the things we are able to do.


Caleb Magoon is a Hyde Park native who grew up hiking, hunting, biking and exploring Vermont’s Green Mountains. His passions for sports and recreation have fueled his career as the owner of Power Play Sports and Waterbury Sports. Caleb encourages outdoor activity and believes it is an essential element to a healthy lifestyle and the Vermont way of life. Caleb serves the Lamoille Valley by volunteering on numerous community boards such as the Lamoille County Planning Commission, The Morrisville Alliance for Commerce and Culture, Mellow Velo, and the state chapter of The Main Street Alliance. He lives, plays and works in Hyde Park with his wife Kerrie.

What Is Your New Years Resolution?

A new year has arrived, presenting the perfect opportunity to reflect on the past and reset. Even if you’re not in need of a completely fresh start, everyone can benefit from embracing a more positive frame of mind and a few new wellness goals.

We asked Live Well Lamoille bloggers to share the healthy habits they hope to embrace this year. Here is what they said:

Valerie Valcour, Vermont Department of Health: A renewed focus for me in 2019 is work-life balance. The first step will be to incorporate 10 minutes of meditation into each day. The best time will be the transition between work and home each afternoon and mornings on the weekend. A book with 52 meditative focus areas will be my weekly topic guide. I wish you all the best in accomplishing your goals for 2019.

Caleb Magoon, Power Play Sports: A couple of years ago, I was a bit down in the dumps following a very tough year. In an effort to focus on all the positive things I had going in life, I resolved at the New Year to write a bit about those positive aspects of my life. Rather than a traditional journal chronicling all life events, I decided instead to simply write about positive events, moments of beauty I saw daily, or uplifting interactions with people around me. My goal was to write nearly every day, which I did, albeit not for the whole year.

Though my effort was short-lived, it was not without a positive effect. I found that by focusing on the positive rather than complaining about the many negative things (because that is just too easy), had a profound effect on my outlook.

This year, I plan to do something similar. I have some new and slightly more realistic expectations. I’m quite certain that by taking just a few minutes each week to celebrate the positive things in my life, I will see an improved outlook. Deep in the Vermont winter, many of us struggle to keep a positive attitude. Small exercises like this that take little time can do big things for your mental health.

Dan Regan, Northern Vermont University-Johnson: In 2019 I resolve to continue two strategies, which I’ve begun. The first is: Allot extra time for all tasks and commitments. My mom gave me this advice, and she lived past 95. It means leaving early to pick someone up, arriving beforehand for an appointment or meeting, planning on extra time to cook dinner, complete a report, etc. I’m someone who acutely feels the pressure of an upcoming commitment. For me, and maybe others among you, a more unhurried approach reduces stress, helps control blood pressure and contributes to overall health.

In my seventies, time is obviously precious; but I can’t honestly claim that each second is equally indispensable. So I don’t begrudge waiting and “wasting” some of those seconds. Paradoxically, the willingness to waste some time unapologetically has made my “productive” moments feel—well—more productive and meaningful.

The second resolution is: Minimize multitasking. That means, for starters, no peering at screens while I’m exercising or checking phones when I’m actually watching something. I find the more I commit to uni-tasking, the more I get done. I’m better able to focus on the task at hand. And an unforeseen benefit is that, without distraction, my mind is free to move in unexpected and sometimes productive directions. For instance, I “wrote” this short piece in my head while running in a pool.

I hope I can make good on these two, simple commitments and I wish everyone a good (better) and healthy 2019!

What are your health and wellness resolutions? Maybe you’d like to start meal planning, start walking for 20 minutes per day, or just want to stop overscheduling your calendar to cut down on stress. How do you plan to stick to them? Let us know in the comments section below.

Support for Survivors of Suicide Loss

Death by suicide is complicated as is the survivor grief that follows. Did you know:

  • Grief is unpredictable.
  • Grief is complicated.
  • Grief is not one emotion, but many.
  • Grief is exhausting.
  • Grief ambushes you.
  • Grief never really goes away.
  • Grief permeates all aspects of life.
  • Grief is a process, not an event.
  • Only you know how much time you need to grieve.

Monique Reil of Lamoille County Mental Health Services and Jane Paine with Lamoille Home Health & Hospice are coordinating a support group for survivors of suicide loss. Please join us in this safe, confidential space to share your story or just to be surrounded by those who understand and care.

The Survivors of Suicide Loss (SOSL) support group meets the last Wednesday of each month from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. For location details, call Jane Paine at 888-4651 or Monique Reil at 888-5026.

Tips for a Less Stressful Holiday

By: Leah Hollenberger

Tips to reduce holiday stress

The holidays can be one of the most stressful and emotional times of the year.  The loss of loved ones is felt deeply, financial worries, and stress over trying to fit in holiday activities along with daily life all contribute. There are two steps to helping make the holidays easier and more enjoyable. The first step is being honest with how much you can afford to spend for the holiday and sticking to your budget. The second step is focusing on what is most meaningful to you and your family and letting go of all the other activities and events that we tell ourselves must be a part of the holidays. This can be hard given all of the commercials, movies, and others’ traditions and expectations that are shared this time of the year.  Here are some tips that may help:

Speak with your extended family or friends in advance and mutually agree to provide gifts only for anyone under the age of 18.

For the adults, hold a Yankee Swap. Set a reasonable price limit, which is fair to everyone. You’ll find people will get creative. It is fun watching everyone open the presents and you’ll have a lot of laughs with the trading and swapping that ensues!

If you enjoy making gifts, try making one gift your signature gift for the holiday season. Make multiples of the item and give it to every adult on your list. Think homemade cocoa mix, granola, canned or preserved items like jam or pickles, candles, and the like.

Realize that once you give a gift, you are not invested as to if the recipient likes the gift. Of course, you hope they love it, but if they don’t, it is not a reflection on you. Let it go. It is fine if they want to re-gift or donate the item so someone else can enjoy it.

Give experiences as gifts; tickets to a play, a museum pass, a restaurant gift card – something that encourages the recipient to spend time with someone they love.

Give your time: a coupon to babysit; a calendar with an offer to get together monthly for a “walk and talk;” a bag of your homemade cocoa mix with a note to get together to watch a favorite tv show; an offer to drive them to the library, grocery store or laundromat, etc.  You could even suggest volunteering at the food share, nursing home, or with a local non-profit together.

Have your children shop with you for each other, within the budget you set. Siblings typically do a great job picking out a gift for each other – and it means more knowing their brother or sister picked it out especially for them.

The 4-gift rule is popular: one gift is something they want, one gift is something they need, one gift is something they wear, and one gift is something they read. I’m not sure where this rule originated, but it works for everyone and helps you stay on budget.

Figure out the two or three things that you love the most about the holiday and focus on them. If you love the lights on the Christmas tree but dislike decorating it, why not go with just lights on the tree? Make just one or two kinds of Christmas cookies instead of four or five. Better yet, participate in a cookie-walk if you want a variety of cookies. Area churches often hold them and promote them via Front Porch Forum.

Instead of going out to dinner, or fixing a fancy meal, suggest a potluck instead or serve a simple meal with a fancy dessert. Meet after dinner and take a drive around town to see the Christmas lights. Or play a board game with Christmas music playing in the background.

Simplify the expectations you have for yourself and others and you’ll find your holiday is less stressful and filled with what truly matters: spending meaningful time with family and friends.

What tips do you have for making the holidays less stressful?


Leah Hollenberger is the Vice President of Marketing, Development, and Community Relations for Copley Hospital. A former award-winning TV and Radio producer, she is the mother of two and lives in Morrisville. Her free time is spent volunteering, cooking, playing outdoors, and producing textile arts. Leah writes about community events, preventive care, and assorted ideas to help one make healthy choices.

Helping People Navigate the Health Care System

By: Rebecca Copans

Anyone who has accompanied a loved one to an emergency room knows how challenging it can be to navigate the medical system. Its complex language, daunting costs, and frenetic pace make it difficult for the average person to take in. If the patient has no one by their side and if they are dealing with two or more chronic conditions — plus poverty, food insecurity, and unstable housing — they face even greater challenges in navigating the healthcare system.

Sarah Williams, Lamoille County Mental Health Services (LCMHS) Medical Care Coordinator, has seen first-hand the results of that confusion and it has become her mission to directly challenge that problem. In her role, Williams has created collaborative relationships among providers at LCMHS and community partners, including primary care physicians, endocrinologists, neurologists, pharmacists, and hospital emergency room staff. Her role brings together providers and information systems to coordinate health services with patient needs to better achieve the goals of treatment. “When I look into a person’s eyes, I can see the difference that help has made. They are less stressed and can focus on getting well.”

Having someone to help patients navigate a complex system improves the quality of the care they receive. Outcomes improve as well, as the person receives the kind of medical follow-up that is required to treat their needs. Research across disciplines have shown that care coordination increases efficiency and improves clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction with care. “Greater coordination of care—across providers and across settings—will improve quality care, improve outcomes, and reduce spending, especially attributed to unnecessary hospitalization, unnecessary emergency department utilization, repeated diagnostic testing, repeated medical histories, multiple prescriptions, and adverse drug interactions” writes Susan Salmond and Mercedes Echevarria of Rutgers University School of Nursing.

Through these coordinated partnerships, LCMHS is enhancing the quality of care for the individuals they serve. This gives the individual an advocate, as well as someone to translate the often murky landscape of multiple disciplines of medicine. This has a striking benefit to patients’ mental health, quality of life, and their own sense of optimism as they have one distinct person that can be contacted to help clarify information, track multiple appointments, and identify specialists.

As primary and behavioral health care providers strive to integrate services, care coordination will support system-wide efforts to reduce emergency room visits and hospital stays, which is one of the greatest cost-drivers for the health care system. Based on the foundation of care coordination, primary and behavioral health care integration will make huge inroads in achieving the triple bottom line of health care: to improve the health of the population, to improve the patient experience of care (including quality, access, and reliability), and to control or reduce costs.


Rebecca Copans has worked extensively in government affairs, public relations and communications. As a society, our greatest potential lies with our children. With this basic tenant firmly in mind, Rebecca worked most recently with the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children and now with Lamoille County Mental Health to secure a stronger foundation for all Vermont families. 

A graduate of the University of Vermont and Dartmouth College, Rebecca holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in globalization. Her thesis concentration was the history and societal use of language and its effect on early cognitive development. She lives in Montpelier with her husband and three children.

2018 Community Health Needs Assessment Posted

Results and Implementation Plan are Now Available for Community Review

 

Copley Hospital has completed its 2018 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) and posted the results and implementation plan on its website, copleyvt.org. Through the CHNA process, Copley has determined the top health needs of the community are: Preventative Care, Mental Health, Chronic Health Conditions, and Substance Use/Abuse. The Hospital has developed, in conjunction with recommendations from local health care and social service organizations, an implementation plan. This plan will help address these needs and includes services/programs the hospital already offers, new services/programs the hospital may add, other organizations the hospital may partner with and metrics the hospital will use to track progress.

“We had a tremendous response to our survey and are grateful to the staff of area social service organizations and agencies and community leaders that helped with the assessment and shaping our Implementation Plan,” said Art Mathisen, Copley Hospital CEO.  “We view this as a plan for how we, along with other area organizations and agencies, can collaborate to bring the best each has to offer to support change and to address the most pressing identified needs.”

A CHNA is a federal requirement of all non-profit hospitals to prove the hospital is providing community benefit and meeting the needs of local residents. The CHNA process follows federal guidelines including gathering statistical data from reputable sources, surveying “Local Experts” who meet specific criteria and developing an implementation plan for addressing the Significant Health Needs in the area.

The complete report can be found here: https://www.copleyvt.org/about-us/community-health-needs-assessment/. Community members can also go to Copley’s Community Relations office and request a paper copy to review.